When Leo told me that his grandfather was the only male role model in his life that showed him what a real man looked like, I was both heartbroken and ecstatic. On the one hand, it was tragic that he had no father involved in his life, or that no other men were able to provide a model of godly manhood for this young man. On the other hand, praise God for a grandfather who did.
I am the first to herald the importance of a father as the primary teacher of what it means to be a man for his son. But I also believe, whether a boy has a father committed to doing that or not, a grandfather can have a powerful influence in helping a young man (and a young woman) grow towards godly adulthood. My own grandfather set a powerful example for me as a man of honor, integrity, hard work, and a high commitment to the Word and prayer.
I want to be that kind of example to my grandchildren, especially my grandsons. There are five things I want my grandsons to understand about being a man of God.
- That a godly man treasures Christ and His gospel above all else. I want them to know that there is no greater treasure than that found in the everlasting, ever-increasing, never boring but ever-satisfying joy of knowing and following Christ.
- That there is no greater virtue than treating the opposite sex with honor, respect and dignity, and that he will love the woman he chooses for his bride as Christ loves His Bride, the Church—willing to go to the stake for her sake.
- That a man has a work to do, and there is no greater purpose or reward given by God than doing that which God has called him according to God’s purposes whether in his career, his home, his church or his community.
- That a godly man is not mastered by his passions and pleasures but master of them. He knows the value of self-control.
- That a true man of God rejects any sense of passivity, but courageously chooses to do what is right and true rather than surrendering to what is popular or comfortable.
So, as a grandfather, what can I do to communicate these things to my grandsons with the greatest impact? I suspect you already know (it’s not rocket science), but here are three things I think we would all agree are critical to that impact:
- Pray for your grandson(s)—and granddaughter(s)—faithfully and regularly. The prayers of a righteous man have a powerful impact (James 5:16).
- Be an example. No matter what you say, if your way of life does not match what you say, your words will fall on deaf ears. Paul audaciously proclaimed, “Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice” (Philippians 4:9). If you want to make an impact on your grandsons, then make this your life verse. This is not a matter of being perfect, but knowing that how you respond in those times when you mess up is how you would want your grandson(s) to also respond.
- Spend time with them. I’ve heard it said that ‘quality’ of time spent is more important than ‘quantity’ of time, I don’t think it’s either or. I believe that for us to have the greatest impact in another’s life, our lives need to intersect. While proximity (quantity) does make doing life together easier, not living nearby does not negate your potential impact, if you make the most of the time you have (quality). Technology also gives us a great advantage when proximity is not possible. And don’t forget the impact of letters to stay connected.
Obviously, if you do these things well it is still no guarantee your grandson(s) will be godly men, or that your granddaughter(s) will be godly women. But do not forget that God cherishes them even more than you do, but He has chosen you to be his hands and feet. Your faithfulness in presenting them with an image of what a godly man looks like can have an amazing influence on the choices they make. Can you afford to do otherwise? There is, after all, no greater joy than knowing our children and grandchildren are walking in the truth. God has put you in their lives to give them every reason to choose that path.
I will never forget the memorial service of a dear friend and mentor where several of his grandchildren came to the front and declared: “Much of the reason we wanted to know Jesus and follow Him is because our grandfather treasured Jesus and smelled so much like Jesus we wanted to know Him too.” May God make you a grandfather who smells like Jesus… for the sake of your grandchildren.